Alfred Chester was a wonderfully strange and unsettling writer who was active in the 1950s and 1960s. Diana Athill was his English editor and she said he was one of the most talented writers she had ever worked with (and she worked with Jean Rhys and V.S. Naipaul, among others), but he never really broke through to the mainstream. His books are just that little bit too odd and angular — but that’s what makes them all the more appealing. They can be fantastically cruel and biting but they’re also humane, touching and — like their author — imbued with tragedy. Chester spent his life under a crazy ginger toupee (after going bald thanks to a childhood disease), he went insane and he died in a seedy Jerusalem hotel room surrounded by pill bottles — and yet he was magnificent.
Posted on 19th October 2010
Fiction Uncovered by… Sam Jordison, writer and critic
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